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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
MARCH 5, 2001
9:06 AM
CONTACT:  Greenpeace
Bill Hare +31-6-2129 6899
Truls Gulowsen +47 90 107904
Susan Cavanagh +31 6 21296910
UN Report: Governments Could Remove Barriers to Cheap Green Energy To Save the Climate
 
ACCRA, GHANA - March 5 - A new UN report finds that "hundreds of technologies" at very low cost are already available to reduce climate damaging emissions, and that government policies are needed to remove the barriers to those technologies.

The report, from Working Group III of the Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change (IPCC) which met in Accra, Ghana from February 28-3 March, warns that the choice of energy investments in the next few decades will determine whether or not greenhouse gas concentrations can be stabilized.

"We are at the fork in the climate change road - down one branch lies clean energy and a protected climate, and down the other lies more oil, more coal, more storms, more floods, more crop failures, more deaths, and more - much more - climate change," said Bill Hare, Greenpeace climate change policy director and meeting participant. "And this report clearly spells out that the choices our governments make now will determine which fork in the road we will follow."

"This report gives a clear, green light for governments to move ahead and take the urgent action necessary to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It also contains a chilling warning that if current energy investment trends are not changed towards clean energy it may not be possible to stabilize greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and hence prevent dangerous climate change."

"This report reinforces the decision of the G8 Environment Minister meeting in Trieste on the weekend to renew momentum on implementing the Kyoto Protocol following last November's difficult climate negotiations in The Hague, in order for the Protocol to enter into force in 2002. The findings on the low costs of action in this report conclusively disarm the US fossil fuel industry arguments against the Kyoto Protocol and should assist President Bush in reaching a favourable position on the Protocol".

"In January we had a new IPCC report on the science of climate showing that human activities are warming the planet, and in February an IPCC report which shows that we are facing major damages including species loss and threats to life, health and human development in the poorest countries. Now we have the final IPCC report on the economics of reducing the emissions that are causing global warming and causing or threatening major impacts and damages from climate change, which says that we can reduce these, often at a profit, but that what is needed is government policies and actions."

Notes to Editors

Mr Hare said the main messages from the report on the ability and costs of achieving the emissions reductions in the Kyoto Protocol are clearly:

- Progress on technologies to reduce emissions has been faster in the last five years than previously anticipated particularly in relation to wind turbines, fuel cell technology, renewable biomass fuels.

- Using known and currently available technologies global greenhouse emissions can be reduced below year 2000 levels in period 2010-2020 at zero net costs, with at least half of this achievable at negative costs e.g. at a profit.

- Government action and policies are needed to remove both barriers to emission reducing technologies entering the market and subsidies to fossil fuels. Renewable energy industries and service industries would benefit from removal of subsidies from fossil fuels.

- Hundreds of technologies are available to improve energy efficiency and there are many technologies available that reduce or eliminate emissions from power production.

- There are often strong additional benefits such as reducing air pollution from policies and technologies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

- Modelled costs, not taking into account the benefits of greenhouse gas reductions, in the industrialized countries of meeting their emission reduction targets under the Kyoto Protocol, including using emission trading are quite low, equivalent to 0.1 to 1.1% of projected GDP in 2010. This is equivalent to costs of up $125 US per capita per year in the OECD, while the projected increase in GDP per capita over that period is US$ 3000-5000 per year above today's levels [2].

Mr Hare said the report confirms, based on what it says is a conservative estimate and with no new technological breakthroughs, that it is possible to stabilize carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere at relatively low levels. However government policies to put in place energy efficient technologies and to introduce more rapidly low or no-carbon energy supply technologies are needed if this is to be achieved. In addition, stabilization of CO2 will require, in addition to emission reduction action in the developed countries, technology transfer to developing countries.

Another major finding in the report, Mr Hare said, is the warning that the choice of energy investments in the future will determine whether or not, and at what level and cost CO2 concentrations can be stabilized. At present investment is directed towards discovering and developing more conventional and unconventional fossil resources. The limited scale of conventional oil and gas resources means there will have to be a change in the mixture of fossil fuels used in the next century. The choice is towards either unconventional fossil fuels (tar sands, oil shales, methane hydrates or using coal to make liquid fuels) or non-fossil alternatives [3]. The carbon contained in unconventional oil and gas deposits and coal contain more than enough carbon, which if released to the atmosphere, would increase CO2 to very high levels.

Finally, the report confirms the finding of the 1995 IPCC report that early action to reduce emissions is needed and in addition:

- A gradual transition in the near term of the world energy system towards lower carbon emissions will minimize some costs

- More rapid short-term action to reduce emissions would decrease the risk of human and environmental damages from climate change and stimulate the deployment of low carbon technologies and help to avoid locking in carbon intensive technologies.

[1] Working Group III of the Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change (IPCC) met in Accra, Ghana from February 28-3 March to agree the Summary for Policy Makers its report assessing the scientific, technical, environmental, economic, and social aspects of the mitigation of climate change. The report is an interdisciplinary assessment of the options to control the emissions of greenhouse gases and/or enhance sinks. Work began in 1998 on this assessment as part of the IPCC's Third Assessment Report.

Earlier in 2001 the Science working group of the IPCC (WG I) adopted its report in Shanghai in January which concluded that: "There is new and stronger evidence that most of the observed warming over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities.". At Geneva, February 13 to 16, 2001 Working Group Two of the IPCC on Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability to climate change found with "high confidence that recent regional changes in temperature have had discernible impacts on many physical and biological systems". Among the WGII report's conclusions were that current rates of human-induced climate change:

- risk large scale and irreversible impacts, such as the melting of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, the shutting down of the Gulf Stream, and massive releases of greenhouse gases from melting permafrost and dying forests;

- will have severe impacts on a regional level. For instance, in Europe, river flooding will increase over much of the continent; and in coastal areas, the risk of flooding, erosion and wetland loss will increase substantially;

- will have the greatest impacts on those least able to protect themselves from rising sea levels, increase in disease and decrease in agricultural production in the developing countries in Africa and Asia.

[2] The information in this sentence was deleted from the Summary for Policy Makers in the last hours of the Ghana meeting at the insistence of the USA. The USA did not because the accuracy of the information but claimed instead that policymakers new what the per capita GDF figures meant and that include a sum like $125/person/year might imply that this was not significant, whereas it was, they claimed, for some in the US. We believe that these figures make it much clearer for policy makers the press and public what the real costs of meeting the Kyoto Targets are.

[3] The draft summary for policy makers at the beginning the meeting said "The transition to sources other than conventional oil and gas reserves involves substantial investment over a long period, either towards unconventional fossil resources or towards non-fossil alternatives." This was removed in the final draft at the insistence of a number of countries led by the USA for essentially political reasons.

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